Tenerife’s Migrants

Mon, November 16th, 2015 - By Linda

This word ‘migrant’ is quite the buzzword currently. It’s a word with which Canarians are very familiar, but perhaps not always in the way you might assume.

Many European retirees choose to escape the dark winter of their homeland in favour of the balmy temperatures of the Canary Islands, but don’t want to become full-time residents. We residents fondly refer to them as ‘swallows’ or ‘snowbirds’, but they aren’t the only species touching down on Tenerife’s shores as winter enfolds northern Europe. Birds, whales, sportsmen in training, people convalescing from illness, and more, all arrive with autumn temperatures, some pass on, some linger until warmer times arrive.




Like humans, some birds are simply stopping off on the island, others pass the winter, before returning north when temperatures rise in spring. The main birdwatching areas are on the north-west coast in the Teno to Garachico area, or around El Médano in the south-east, where the area around Montaña Roja and the small salt lake alongside the beach are protected areas. Hard for non-birding fans to identify, but various types of gull and tern winter here, and other shore birds pass through.  Stroll along the rocky shoreline of Granadilla de Abona, especially early in the morning, and you will see shore birds, like the visiting small, white heron or egret elegantly poking about in rock pools.


Salt lake at El Médano, Tenerife


Whale and dolphin watching trips are a popular excursion from the ports of south Tenerife. You will be unlucky not to spot pods of dolphins or the resident pod of pilot whales which live year round in the channel between Tenerife and La Gomera, but you will be very lucky if you spot grey whale or Bryde’s whales on their migratory routes. They like winter warmth as much as we do! There are unconfirmed reports that humpbacks occasionally veer this far east too.


Pilot whales off the coast of Tenerife


The reputation of Tenerife’s climate as convalescent or healing goes back centuries. Los Cristianos’s then-fledgling tourist reputation was founded on winter visitors from Scandanavia, who flocked here in the mid 20th century, but before the opening up of the “desert” south, Puerto de la Cruz and even the heart of the island, around the crater of Mt Teide, were touted as places to recuperate and regain health. Cleaner air, low humidity and warm temperatures make this as true today as it was 200 years ago.


Winter training cycling on Tenerife


At the other end of the health spectrum, the island is becoming a popular destination for winter training for sportsmen. Take a drive up to the Teide National Park from the south, and you are sure to pass cyclists, pushing their way  up the steep roads. The Canaries have taken over the mantel worn by the Balearic Islands as favourite winter hangout for cyclists. The British Olympic cycling team trained here. The opening, in recent years, of T3 Tenerife Top Training in La Caleta on Costa Adeje has given this aspect a boost.

There is one particular branch of tourism which, surprisingly, has taken a while to catch on to the advantages of Tenerife’s winter climate and closeness to Europe, and that’s golfers. However, this is changing and this year the island hosted the prestigious International Golf Travel Market. Golf enthusiasts are now flocking to spend winter here to enjoy the island’s 7 courses.

So, you see, not all migrants are human, and the population of the archipelago swells in wintertime.

Posted : Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 12:45 pm
Category : about tenerife
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